Is Tech Innovations central to Startups?

I recently read a very good article on the need to further focus on solving actual business problems rather than spinning around technology Innovation by Neal Cabage  at http://bit.ly/1eFL3Yh

I then interacted with Neal on Linkedin in a discussion on this post and hence bringing on some of my thoughts from that discussion along with further elaborations to this post which I present below.

“Technology innovation” as we all know helps to open up new avenues to support new platforms for envisioning solutions to new and existing problems.  But Innovations I believe, should not be the centerpiece of the story of tech startups but at the same time it cannot be pushed very much aside. It needs to exist in close proximity as a parallel ecosystem with lots of open doors, needing to function unabated and receive it’s fair share of highlight to provide us with the unending supply of new concepts, technologies and gizmos as means to challenge the next frontier.

“Lots of open doors” means that the mechanism through which Innovations form and gets implemented as a part of a Startup offering needs to be flexible enough to absorb iterative feedback so that the Innovations not really contributing to the useful part of solving problems should not be pursued further thus saving any waste of time & other resources.

Also without the innovation in the underlying technologies, the non-functional aspects of the solution i.e. scalability, reliability & performance of the systems that will be actually “solving the real problem” will not meet the required benchmarks to bring about overall system improvements. And it is these system improvements that will deliver the “production” capabilities that you really need to “solve problems” more successfully in bulk numbers. And doing bulk stuff efficiently and with speed is what will make the business agile ,  bring growth and keep the cash flow positive.

Yes I do recognize that we should make the earnest effort to connect with customers with empathy to interact, observe and learn from customers their real needs & pain points. Think deep, visualize and build a broad vision of all the aspects of the solution which really solves the problem as that is what really matters. Try to clear the haze and persevere to know where the solution really fits (in the market) then bring on the noise about the techie mumbo-jumbo.
In order to illustrate how tech innovations really spur good problem solving let me highlight some versatile examples below.

Let me move away from specifics of web & software and just look at broad Technology innovations.
In my attendance at the after office NYC based meetup groups like Startup Grind, I once met a spirited individual running a startup focused on coming up with new kinds of stirrers for detecting a broad range of spiked drinks. According to him there is a market but the solution would not have been possible without new technology innovations which had come up in the recent times and that this project would also feedback more ideas on that technology.
Several successful wireless based Media products & cloud hosted subscription services of all colors, all coming from startups solving real customer problems & getting connected with customers on the platform of the tech innovation itself. On a lighter vein we also know that the Hollywood hit Avatar waited for technology innovations to see the light of the day.

Startups will be tied with innovation and technology and is not necessarily a bad thing to have. But these startups need to have some “strong steering hands” also available. These hands will steer the energy and capabilities of these startups towards real customer focused problem solving and is positioned correctly among customer segments really looking out for that solution, thus setting up the path to acceptance and prosperity for the startup.

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